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Rams, Less but Better

Rams is a documentary portrait of Dieter Rams, one of the most influential designers alive, and a rumination on consumerism, sustainability, and the future of design.
All contents in this article come from the documentary.

For over fifty years, Dieter Rams has left an indelible mark on the field of product design and the world at large with his iconic work at Braun and Vitsoe. The objects Dieter has designed have touched the lives of millions of people––so many of us have had a Braun coffeemaker, shaver, stereo, calculator, speakers, or alarm clock. Or an Oral-B toothbrush. Or a Vitsoe 606 shelving system. Or any of the hundreds of other products Dieter has designed or overseen the design of.

His work has influenced the way most of today's consumer products look and function. The computer or phone you're reading this on looks the way it does because of Dieter Rams. Dieter's influence also extends to his "Ten Principles of Good Design," a list of edicts that champions simplicity, honesty, and restraint, and still applies to design theory and practice today.

"There are too many unnecessary products in this world." Dieter has long been an advocate for the ideas of environmental consciousness and long-lasting products. He's dismayed by today's unsustainable world of over-consumption, where "design" has been reduced to a meaningless marketing buzzword.

"Snow White's Coffin"

SK4 was a turning point for design. Radio was kind of a furniture at the time and Barun's designers wanted it to go away from furniture.

Dieter had the idea to create the lid from plexiglass. That had just started around that time using plexiglass as a material. It was no longer a novelty.

Because it is a clear lid, it allows them to put all of the controls on top, where they previously was on the front. Now they can be seen through the lid for the first time. Things suddenly took off in the terms of products after "Snow White's Coffin", as the SK4 was known.

You don't shout.

I didn't want the Braun logo on the front. It was on the back. That was sufficient. The constant battle, which I eventually lost with the last CEO, was because he wanted the Barun logo to be larger all the time. When you're new somplace and have to introduce yourself, or you enter a room and say, "I'm so-and-so." You don't shout. Please, you should do it quetly.

User Manuals

We were trying to eliminate the need for user manuals, which isn't entirely possible. But we want to make it so that the machine could at least be used without one, which means a deduction to the bare essentials and removal of anything that could be a distraction. (The calculator in the image is ET 66) ...Today I see this as an example of something that can't be improved upon or made obsolete. -- Thoughts: Today smart home proucts somehow have achieved the goal of "no user manual". The user manuals in those products are minimum just telling you to download the app and let app walk you through the set up process.

More explains on vitsoe

Experiments

He just wanted to do something completely different, but not something that would be produced, just demonstrated. I'm all in favor of experiments, but these are pretty useless. We should forego them because we need the resources for better things.

The world that cannot be digitalized.

Visiting Japan, I was immediately impressed by the simplicity and the reserve with which many things were expressed. I think that all this digitization is becoming more and more a part of our life. I think it diminishes our ability to experience things. There are pictures that disappear, one after the other, without leaving traces up here (in your head). This goes insanely fast. And maybe that's why we can, or we want to, consume so much. The world that can be perceived through the senses exudes an aura that I believe cannot be digitalized.

I think Dieter is surprisingly depressed about the future. But then I think he is also maybe not so aware of how much his principles could influence people. Beause Rams design is not just design, it's a whole attitude. It incorporates everything about how you live. It's about how to get rid of excess, visual clutter, just living with what you need. "Less but Better" is a quite amazing legacy. What better thing could you want than that?

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